Today is my 4th Cancer-free-aversary. When I was 31 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Went through being sick, biopsy surgery, chemo, hair loss, temporary early menopause, a year of fatigue, the works. So it is with great pleasure that I breathe today–even though I have a cold. It is with great pleasure that I work today, that I have friends today, that I write today, that I walk from the train stop today.

Friends sometimes say I was brave. But I usually question that. I mean, you’re diagnosed, they tell you what to do and when, what to take, and you do it. Sure, it sucks, but this is not brainiac, purple-heart stuff. I don’t really feel like I “beat” cancer most of the time. I was just an obedient patient. But days like today that mark some sort of cancer-behind-me milestone, I do feel a little pride creep in. A little like, “I was pretty brave.” I mean even in the dark awful heart of it I still sometimes cracked really bad jokes, my boyfriend at the time and I made up songs about my drugs (“Neulasta, works fasta, on your cancah!”), I even got some writing done. I know plenty of people raise three kids and work full time during chemo. So again, not purple heart stuff. But, you know, I got through it and I’m here and it’s cool to feel my warrior self standing tall and kind of mellowly bad-ass.

To celebrate, I offer you a cocktail! It’s a recipe I made up when I was going through chemo and couldn’t keep anything down and was feeling very bleh and housebound. It’s best if you serve it in your classiest wine glass. I often adjusted the ratio of ingredients depending how my stomach felt. Bad means more ginger juice. And pomegranate juice can vary in intensity depending on the brand (I used Pom), so that’s also a to-taste thing. And it’s a fun, refreshing drink for anyone, not just the cancah folks.

Valerie’s Chemo Rescue Juice


1 small bottle of pure, unsweetened pomegranate juice

1 medium-sized fresh ginger root

1 small bottle of seltzer

Cut the ginger into hearty chunks. Boil it in a small saucepan of filtered water (the measurements don’t have to be precise–my way of saying I just wing it) for about 20 minutes. Put aside to cool–best to leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. I liked making a biggish batch that I could keep for a few days. Once it’s chilled, take your fancy glass, fill it one third with seltzer, another third with the ginger juice. Then add a 2-3 capfuls (a couple of ounces) of the pomegranate juice. Add ice, stir, serve, feel fancy! Clink!

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